Wednesday, 3rd December
We woke up tired from the long bus ride the day before. I think I fell asleep around 9pm when the fatigue set in and therefore was clearly in need of sleep, getting up around 10am today. We didn’t have too many plans for today so didn’t need to get up that early. We had thought we would need to go to the Cuban embassy for a tourist card to visit Cuba but after consulting our airline for that trip it turns out we can just get the card at the airport when we check-in. This freed up some time. The hot water was on the blink again so after waiting a bit for the ‘fixer’ to turn up we decided just to head out, having had a shower the night before. We walked into town, we are staying the Bellavista neighbourhood of Santiago which is just over the river from the central area. On the way into the centre we checked out a couple of money-changers and the rate they were offering for Euros. We have been reading up on Cuba and have decided the easiest and most reliable way of having money there it to take cash and Euros seem to be the most effective. What we had to do then was to take out about one million Chilean pesos from various ATMs to change with the money-changer. The trick is to use multiple cards so your bank doesn’t think a card has been stolen and put a block on it.
With the plan set for our money in Cuba, we walked on into the centre of town. It was very busy in the centre with shoppers and business people going about their days. We had a few things to get and first we visited a Lush store where we were shown their products first hand (involved getting my arm washed by a shop assistant) and met a girl working there who lives in London (she is there for three weeks to help out over Christmas). Kirsty and her exchanged details to meet up when we get to the UK. From there we walked down the Neuva York street, the financial district, and went to ‘Bar Union’ for lunch. We had seen this place on our last visit to Santiago and was told that it is a good, old fashioned place for a drink and a bite to eat. It is over the road from the fancy gentlemen’s club and was setup in an anti-estlabishment protest against the elitist gentlemen’s club that not everyone could enter. Anyone can enter Bar Union and it’s a place where you can have have a drink and chat over lunch. Kirsty ordered a pisco sour and I had a Pacena beer to go with our food of a Chacarero sandwich and Spanish omelette. The food was excellent. The sandwich was rated in the top 13 of the orld by Time magazine. I have to say it was an excellent sandwich although not quite in my personal top 13. The omelette was good too. Lots of potato and chorizo but a little crazy on the onion. Our waiter looked like he was ready for retirement, wearing a white jacket with black bow-tie, the classic uniform of the service staff in this place. It was a great a experience and glad we were in the area to sample it.
After lunch we stepped out into the heat of the day. It is over 30 degrees here and you feel every degree of it. It’s a very dry heat also, like what we are used to in Melbourne. Walking back into the centre of the city, I grabbed a sweet each drink (mote de huesillo) which is a local favourite and a refreshing mix of sugary nectar, peaches and barley. A bit a bit like eating tinned fruit whilst sipping on the juice in the can. Kirsty picked up some sunglasses next. This was a bizarre shopping experience. She chose a pair she wanted, had to go to a counter with the glasses which they took and gave her a docket. We then went to another checkout to pay with the docket and was given another piece of paper which we had to take back to the original checkout to exchange for the sunglasses. A very round about way of shopping if you ask me. It seems as though the shops are busier at the moment with Christmas around the corner. The department store have their christmas sections set up and everyone seems to be frantically buying tinsel and spray-painted twigs.
We walked back to Bellavista and our apartment, on the way getting some Euros. I would have to come back tomorrow to get some more as I could only get half the cash I needed from the arms. We got back to our apartment to find the hot water not working, and not having been fixed so we waited around for ‘Diego’ to turn up to show us the quirks of the boiler and how to reset it should it short circuit out again. It turns out it’s just a temperamental boiler and nothing more. We only had time for a quick lukewarm shower before dinner which I had booked for 8pm.
This begins the treats for Kirsty’s birthday. Dinner was at a place called ‘Bocanariz’ in the Lastarria neighbourhood of Santiago. I had intended to take Kirsty wine tasting out of the city but it proved to be a very expensive experience here so instead I took her wine tasting in a wine bar in the city. This place is a restaurant that has 362 wines for tasting and they offer selected wines in ‘flights’ that you can taste next to each other. We began our evening both selecting a flight of three wines to taste (3 x 50cl) followed by choosing some foods that the waiter could select a glass for us to drink with our blue cheese salad, smoked meats and beef ribs. The food was excellent, easily one of the nest meals we have had on this trip so far and the wine was fantastic too. After our salad and meats we had another tasting, chosen to go with the beef ribs then desert and another tasting, this time a sweet desert wine to go with the stewed apples in port (delicious). We spent around four hours here and it was a great dining experience, the waiter giving us advice on food and wine and taking our time drinking and eating, being able to order more food and drinks whenever we wanted. It was like a tapas style, sharing plate type of affair. We tried 10 different wines in total to go with ur food. They do a tasting menu here which we think we might do on our last night next week. Very pleased to have found this place and very satisfied from dinner we walked back to our apartment and went to bed full and drowsy from all the food and wine.
The wines we sampled were:
1. Viña Tres Palacios, Family Vintage Merlot, Maipo Valley, 2011
2. Vina San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, 2012
3. Garage Wine Co., Old Vine Pale Lot #38 Rose, Maule Valley, 2013
4. Undurraga Sparkling Nature, Leyda Valley
5. Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado Sparkling Rose, Central Valley, Curico
6. Apaltagua Costero Extra Brut San Antonio Valley
7. Aresti Trisquel Syrah, Maipo Valley, 2012
8. Yumbel Viña 33 Cacique Maravilla Burdeo Pipeño, Ensemblage, 2013
9. Vina Tipaume ‘Tipaume’, Alto Cachapoal Valley, Ensemblage, 2011
10. A Gewürztraminer dessert wine, didn’t catch the name
Thursday, 4th December
After breakfast in our apartment we went for a walk in the heat and after seeing that at 11am not much is open in the way of shops and cafes we decided to visit the mueum of memory and human rights (‘Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos’). This Museum is dedicated to commemorate the victims of human rights violations during the civic-military regime led by Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. It was inaugurated by former President Michelle Bachelet on January 11, 2010, who was also a victim of torture during the dictatorship of Pinochet.
We caught the metro there which turned out to be very easy. 640 pesos per person per ride and the system is clean, quick and airy. It is touted as the most artistic metro in the world and you can see why with all the artworks and murals on the walls of the stations you pass through. On the way to the station though we saw something rather alarming. There was a march going through the city as we have seen quite a few times on this trip. There were policemen there to accompany the marchers, as they do, and we saw a dog attack a policeman. Not badly, although enough to make us extra wary of these street dogs. The dog nipped his legs and ankles. We had heard on a walking tour last time in Santiago that these street-dogs are friendly and quite harmless. We had our doubts and these proved them true. I think you would have to be crazy to pet a street-dog, one you don’t know, but people do here. This is something about Santiago I don’t like, these dogs are everywhere. A surefire way to end a holiday quickly, having to get some rabies injections. I have just read there are a half a million stray dogs in Santiago, quite a number.
We went from ‘Baquedano’ to ‘Quinta Normal’ and found the entrance to musum directly from the metro, we didn’t even have to exit onto the street. Talk about efficient. The museum itself is free for entrance but they charge for a handset that gives you information as you walk around. We thought this would be advantageous to us considering our Spanish is not yet up to museum explanation standard. It was a fascinating museum and spoke generally of human rights before focusing on the events in Chile from 1973 to the present day. It is hard to imagine what took place in Santiago back then with the city seemingly so progressive now, although a lot has happened since the coup d’etat. They didn’t shy away from the atrocities that were committed and it was hard to watch and listen at times, some of things were just awful. You had a similar feeling walking around the humans rights museum in memphis and I am always amazed at just how horrible people can be to one another. It went into a lot of detail about specific cases of atrocities and spoke generally about the effect of the dictatorship on ordinary people and everyday life, including the impact to culture and the arts and the exiles that had to leave for fear of persecution. It finished with the national plebiscite vote in 1988 and the end of the dictatorship. In this room there was a television screen showing all the television ads from the time encouraging voters to either vote ‘Yes’ (to approve Pinochet as candidate for national office for another eight year term) or ’No'(to reject Pinochet and have elections in another year, before the original eight year term of Pinochet’s rule expires). They were surprising and humorous in the the way they went about this. No doom and gloom ads that you see everywhere from political parties these days. All happy with music, dancing and a general 80’s feel good vibe. It was a nice way to end the museum, on not so much of a downer but I guess they managed to bring themselves out of the dictatorship so there was a good story at the end even after all the suffering.
After our visit to the museum we caught the metro back to Bellavista and went to a classic Chilean restaurant for lunch, ‘Galindo’. Here they are famous for a corn-pie they make, called ‘pastel de choclo’. This is an oven-baked pie of chicken and beef stew topped off with a corn topping and backed until crisp. It was very nice, similar to a Mexican corn pie I make at home. A hearty dish probably more suited to a winter’s day rather than a 30 degree day like today but we enjoyed it none the less. The restaurant was only around the corner from our apartment so afterwards we went back there via the local outdoor shopping precinct (Patio Bellavista) for some souvenirs to heavy our bags some more. We are going to have to buy some kind of bag on wheels I think for the rest of our trip. We have not retrained ourselves from shopping since we started wight he alpaca in Peru. After dropping the shopping off at the apartment I left Kirsty to vegetate and went out in search of more ATM’s and a money changer to get some more Euros for Cuba which I did so successfully. The man was happy to see me again and I changed another 500,000 pesos for Euros to make sure we wouldn’t be left without money in Cuba after all the stories we have heard about ATM’s eating bankcards and Mastercard bankcards not working at all.
We lazed around the apartment in the evening, just heading out for some quick sushi and a couple of pisco cours around the corner for dinner. We would be heading to Valparaiso tomorrow. I have organised all the rest of the trip to include some treats for the build up to Kirsty’s birthday on the 18th December, so we have some nice places booked to stay and I hope nice places to eat and drink. We will see when we get there.